Italian is a Romance language spoken by about 60 million people
in Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, the Vatican City, Malta and Eritrea.
There are also Italian speakers in Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Australia,
Canada, the USA and the UK.
Italian first started to appear in written documents during the 10th
century in the form of notes and short texts inserted into Latin documents
such as lawsuits and poetry. For a long time there was no standard written
or spoken language in Italy and writers tended to write in their own
regional dialects. In northern Italy, which was often ruled by the French,
French and Occitan were used as literary languages.
During the 13th century such writers as Dante Alighieri (1265-1321),
Petrarch and Boccaccio were influential in popularizing their own dialect
of Italian - the Tuscan of Florence (la lingua fiorentina) - as a standard
literary language. By the 14th century the Tuscan dialect was being
used in political and cultural circles throughout Italy, though Latin
remained the per-eminent literary language until the 16th century.
The first grammar of Italian with the Latin title Regule lingue
florentine (Rules of the Florentine language) was produced by Leon
Battista Alberti (1404-72) and published in 1495.
During the 15th and 16th centuries both Latin and Italian were used
for technical and scientific texts. The Italian used was full of Latin
words and over time Latin was used less and less as Italian became
Today the Tuscan dialect is known as Italian (Italiano) and is the
official language of Italy. It is the main language of literature and
the media. Each region of Italy also has its own dialect, some of
which are so distinct from standard Italian that they are mutually
unintelligible. The Sicilian dialect for example, is sometimes
regarded as a separate language and has a literary tradition older
than Italian itself.
Revolution overtook Rome in 1848, as the Pope resisted approving
revolutions elsewhere and was forced to flee from his fractious
citizens. A new Roman Republic was declared, but it was crushed by
French troops that same year. However revolution remained in the air and
the movement for the reunification of Italy succeeded; a new Kingdom of
Italy took control of much of the Papal States and was soon pressing the Pope for control of Rome. By 1871, after French troops
left the city, and Italian forces had taken Rome, it was declared
capital of the new Italy.
As ever, building followed, designed to turn Rome into a capital; the
population rose fast, from roughly 200,000 in 1871 to 660,000 in 1921.
Today the currency of Italy is the Euro. (EUR, €) .Formerly the currency of Italy was the Italian Lira. (ITL, ₤, L)
The exchange rate (1936.27 ITL = €1) was established on 31 December 1998.
From January 1,1999 the Euro became the official currency of the
country, and was used for non-cash transactions, with Lira coins and
notes continuing as legal tender until 2002. During this interim period,
'Lira' was one of several different official non-decimal sub-units of
the Euro. However, from 1 January 1999, the Lira ceased to exist as an
independent currency unit.
'Italian' Euro coins were first put into circulation in December 2001, though they were minted with 2002 dates.
On 1 January 2002, Italy adopted Euro coinage and notes, but Lira coins
and notes remained as legal tender until 28 February 2002.
January 2002 many other European countries also replaced their coins
and notes with Euro currency, the respective conversion rates of
exchange having been established at midnight on 31 December 1998/1